Edward Suchman

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Edward A. Suchman was an American sociologist, specializing during his career in studies of military organization, the measurement of social behavior, working conditions, and public health. He is best known as one of the major pioneers of the contemporary accountability movement and specifically the methodology of evaluation research. Suchman was a Professor of Sociology who taught at the University of Pittsburgh, Cornell University, Harvard University and Columbia University where he earned his Ph.D. degree. During World War II, he served as a Research Associate of the U.S. War Department Research Branch where he conducted sociological studies of military personnel. These were published after the war as part of a four-volume series, The American Soldierfor which he was one of several co-authors, including lead author Samuel A. Stouffer.

Between 1958 and 1963, Suchman was Director of Social Science Activities at the New York City Department of Public Health, where he conducted evaluation studies. He is the author of Scale Analysis and the Intensity Component of Attitude and Opinion Research (1950), Desegregation: Some Propositions and Research Suggestions (1957), Sociology and the Field of Public Health (1963), An Experimental Study of Accident Prevention among Sugar Cane Workers in Puerto Rico (1966) and co-author with Donald Q. Brodie of The Relationship Between Poverty and Educational Deprivation (1968). His best-known book, which is widely regarded as a classic presentation of the research methodology of evaluation research, is Evaluation Research: Principles and Practice in Public Service and Social Action Programs (1967).

Suchman was strongly committed to what he characterized as a "scientific approach to evaluation" or the question of whether or not a program was effective. He held up experimental design with a control group as the strongest form of evaluation research, but also recognized that classic experiments were not always possible and generally favored whatever method was most appropriate to the circumstances of a particular evaluation.